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Corina Duyn


Corina Duyn is a puppetry artist, sculptor and writer based in Waterford. Her work centres around nature. Corina received an Arts and Disability Connect Mentoring award in 2019.

Tell us about your art.
My current practice is a meditation on life through puppetry. Due to the changing nature of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), my practice over the past two decades has changed alongside it. The main recurring theme appearing in my work is the life of birds. The changing seasons observed in my small garden are also a constant form of inspiration and influence in my practice; the fullness of growth, the pause, the going underground and re-emerging of life.

I write short observations on life and create poetry. Some of these make their way into my books. I create figurative sculptures, design and make puppets. These varied aspects of my creative life, as well as photography, are all intertwined. Nothing is separate. All has its place, exploring and sharing the challenges, joys and moments of gratitude of life lived in relative solitude.

In 2019 during mentoring with Dr. Emma Fisher I explored the aspects of scriptwriting for a puppetry film. This process resulted in the development of the Invisible Octopus project to convey life with M.E. I was also introduced to the magic of shadow puppetry as a very accessible form of puppetry to create powerful imagery.

Where are you based?
Lismore, Co. Waterford. I have the pleasure to be at the edge of this small town, overlooking a field and mountains. Nature is at my doorstep.

What are you working on at the moment?
The Invisible Octopus illustrated poem.

During the emergence of the Invisible Octopus film script, I drafted a poem which was to be used as text on screen instead of narration and music. This was a clear choice as I am aware that for people living with severe M.E. sudden sounds and dialogue in a film can bring on paralysis.

However, I sadly had to concede that development of the film is beyond my capabilities right now. In the meantime, I decided to develop the poem further as a standalone piece of writing. From the emerging themes, I am creating a series of images through shadow puppetry. These will form the basis for illustrations. I hope to work with a graphic designer to create a limited-edition book. I have received a 2020 Professional Development ArtLinks Bursary towards this project.

Inspired by the personal impact of the Invisible Octopus project I am researching the ‘poetic metaphor of puppetry’ further.

Can you tell us a little bit about your career path as an artist? How did you get to where you are now?
I have always been creative but became a full-time Doll Artist a few years after moving to Ireland from the Netherlands in 1989. My sculpted figures were a reflection on rural life as well as Irish folklore and nature. I had several solo exhibitions and worked on corporate and private commissions. The largest of these was working with Waterford Crystal to create the factory floor in doll size. Shortly after its completion, I became ill with M.E. My creative work changed dramatically in terms of substance and output. Unwittingly I created a visual diary of life with illness and disability. Initially, I was only able to make quick sketches and drawings. Years later I have made a slow return to sculpting dolls. I also found my writers voice. Both my art and writing became a way to share my journey with the world. It was my way to stay part of the world, while mostly housebound. My puppetry work over the past 6 years has brought my story to a whole new audience and brought new creative opportunities.

If you have been a recipient of an Arts and Disability Connect Award, how has this impacted your career path as an artist?
During a mentoring opportunity with Dr. Emma Fisher, funded by the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect scheme, I explored how to convey the experience of my personal and societal view of life with an invisible illness through puppetry. Medics and society often trivialise the severity of M.E. The many people in this ‘community of hermits’ are only seen out in public when they are well enough to emerge. Some are living in darkened rooms, invisible to society. Through my work, I hope to bring us into the light again.

With Emma I explored more accessible forms of puppetry, as well as how to develop a film script using my existing puppets. We explored themes like facing death and re-emerging like the phoenix. The word ‘shadow’, during the introduction to shadow puppetry, triggered a memory of a story I wrote about an invisible octopus. This led to the creation of a glove puppet, an octopus. Although initially created as a prop, the octopus became the story. Invisible Octopus, like M.E., has control over my life, manipulating the strings.

For me, the octopus also represents society and the medical world. I struggle to have control over my life and to have a voice in deciding my care. However, I have received many comments from followers of my work how the octopus also represents their life with depression, mental illness and other disabilities.

This mentoring process explored through puppetry has undoubtedly been the most emotionally challenging but also hugely rewarding of all my creative work.

The development of Invisible Octopus will be documented in summer 2020 by the Puppet Notebook, a British Union Internationale de la Marionnette (UNIMA) publication and the Journal of Applied Arts & Health Special Edition on Puppetry, Object Theatre and Health, Well-being and Disability. Also, a podcast has been recorded for the next issue of Bristol’s Puppet Place Newsletter. The project was discussed in detail during my Power of the Puppet lecture via Zoom at Diplomado Muñecoterapia in Chile. I have been invited to lecture again at the upcoming International Diplomado Muñecoterapia.

Are there any standout moments in your career as an artist?
The publication of my first book Hatched – a Creative Journey Through M.E. in 2006, was an incredible moment. Visiting the printers to see my books still brings goosebumps. Also, being invited to the UK in 2018 to be a keynote speaker at Broken Puppet 2 Symposium on Puppetry and Disability Performance at Bath Spa University as well as two talks at the Nottingham Puppet Festival at Nottingham Trent University were badges of honour for me.

Who or what are the most important influences on your art?
The birds.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Due to the fluctuations in my illness and a decline in my health I have to constantly revisit how I can do my art and which materials I can use. It is difficult to not be able to make what my heart desires. My mind is not always in agreement with what my body can do. But nobody can lock my creative mind away.

Who is your favourite artist?
This varies from time to time, but the work of Frida Kahlo has remained a constant influence. Mainly because of her sheer conviction that art is important and necessary to understand life irrevocably changed by illness and disability.

What do you like to do for fun?
I love my garden. I can spend happy hours there observing the birds and watching nature unfold. When ability allows, I am most happy to sit down on a poof and weed the garden. The connection with the plants and soil grounds me.

Biography
Corina Duyn has been creative all her life. She made her first doll aged ten and her first puppet a few years later. She started her professional career in the Netherlands as a palliative care nurse and later as social care worker in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities. Her artistic career started after moving to Ireland in 1989. Her Artist Dolls are in private and corporate collections.

The onset of illness a decade later changed Corina’s life and her practice. The portrayal of life around her changed into exploring the inner world of illness. Not a journey she had intended to make but ultimately brought her amazing creative opportunities, including finding her voice as a writer. Corina has written, illustrated, designed and published several books.

Returning to sculpture and puppet making led to facilitating a puppet making course with fellow members of the Irish Wheelchair Association Resource Centre in Dungarvan. The Life Outside the Box project was funded through the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community scheme in 2016. This project catapulted her into the wonderful world of puppetry and disability at the first Broken Puppet Symposium on Puppetry, Disability and Health at UCC in Cork, 2017. This led to numerous lecture opportunities worldwide.

Corina has been fortunate to receive funding to continue with her work, including a Mentoring award through the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect scheme that is managed by Arts & Disability Ireland.

www.corinaduyn.com

Puppets and ‘Invisible Octopus’ work in progress at the studio, 2019. Photo Corina Duyn

Puppets and ‘Invisible Octopus’ work in progress at the studio, 2019. Photo Corina Duyn

It is difficult to not be able to make what my heart desires. My mind is not always in agreement with what my body can do. But nobody can lock my creative mind away.

Puppets and 'Stepping Out of the Box' sculpture in studio, 2018. Photo Corina Duyn

Puppets and ‘Stepping Out of the Box’ sculpture in studio, 2018. Photo Corina Duyn

Puppet from the animation 'The Dance of Life' in the hands of Dolores at Dzogchen Beara, 2018. Photo Corina Duyn

Puppet from the animation ‘The Dance of Life’ in the hands of Dolores at Dzogchen Beara, 2018. Photo Corina Duyn

Corina Duyn at Nottingham Puppetry Festival, Nottingham Trent University, 2018. Photo Jane Jermyn

Corina Duyn exploring shadow puppetry, 2019. Photo Emma Fisher


Artist Biography

Corina Duyn

Corina Duyn has been creative all her life. She made her first doll aged ten and her first puppet a few years later. She started her professional career in the Netherlands as a palliative care nurse and later as social care worker in a group home for people with intellectual disabilities. Her artistic career started after moving to Ireland in 1989. Her Artist Dolls are in private and corporate collections.

The onset of illness a decade later changed Corina’s life and her practice. The portrayal of life around her changed into exploring the inner world of illness. Not a journey she had intended to make but ultimately brought her amazing creative opportunities, including finding her voice as a writer. Corina has written, illustrated, designed and published several books.

Returning to sculpture and puppet making led to facilitating a puppet making course with fellow members of the Irish Wheelchair Association Resource Centre in Dungarvan. The Life Outside the Box project was funded through the Arts Council’s Artist in the Community scheme in 2016. This project catapulted her into the wonderful world of puppetry and disability at the first Broken Puppet Symposium on Puppetry, Disability and Health at UCC in Cork, 2017. This led to numerous lecture opportunities worldwide.

Corina has been fortunate to receive funding to continue with her work, including a Mentoring award through the Arts Council’s Arts and Disability Connect scheme that is managed by Arts & Disability Ireland.

www.corinaduyn.com

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